By Douglas G. Jackson
“My doctors say I have PTSD, but the VA keeps denying my disability!” This is a phrase too often spoken by veterans. Even when a veteran has a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder, or “PTSD” as it’s called, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) might still deny the veteran’s claim for disability.
Getting the VA to recognize PTSD as a disability is difficult because the VA requires a veteran to prove an extra step. Typically, to get the VA to acknowledge that a disability is connected to military service, a veteran must prove three things: (1) the veteran has a current disability and/or diagnosis, (2) something happened during the military to cause a disability, and (3) a link between the two (i.e. that thing that happened during the military is causing the disability that the veteran has now).
However, when trying to have PTSD recognized by the VA as disability, except in some specific circumstances, a veteran has to submit evidence that “corroborates” the stressor that caused the PTSD. This means that a veteran’s statement explaining the traumatic event that caused the PTSD is not usually enough. A veteran also has to submit outside evidence. Most of the time, it is this very additional piece of evidence that trips up many veterans in their claims for disability.
Luckily, the outside evidence is as easy as getting a battle buddy, who also witnessed the traumatic event, to write and tell the VA about that event. If this happens VA will usually consider this written statement, called a “buddy statement”, as corroborative evidence. In many cases, this may help prove a veterans case, even if other evidence has been lost or destroyed.
There are other situations where the VA might even help a veteran find corroborative evidence. If a veteran witnessed something specific in the military, and the veteran can tell the VA of specific dates and places where these things happened, the VA can actually do a more in-depth search.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the VA is supposed to assist the veteran in developing his or her claim for benefits, the VA does not always do it without being specifically asked. This is why it is usually in a veteran’s best interest to be very specific in describing the details of the incident that caused the PTSD and to request that the VA do a search to verify what that the incident actually happened. Also, this is another reason a buddy statement might be extremely useful: sometimes your battle buddies will remember a specific event or detail that the you do not remember. This means that a buddy statement can be the difference between proving a claim for PTSD and getting another denial.
Of course, once the VA actually acknowledges a veteran’s PTSD as a disability, the battle has only begun. Next, the VA will rate the severity of the condition, and many veterans are given a rating as low as 10 to 30 percent, when they really could be getting a rating of 50, 70, or in some cases, even 100 percent. Sometimes, it may seem that for many veterans, the battle never ends. Yet, with the right strategy and execution, many veterans can, eventually, get the benefits that they deserve.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for general informational purposes. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. If a veteran has legal questions, the veteran should contact an accredited attorney, accredited agent, or a Veterans Service Organization.